Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Andrew’s Anus in the City [a LifeLube exclusive - Part 2 in a series]

Last week I described how Andy discovered sex with me and how he went about discovering his gay self.

I’m Andrew’s anus, and I have HPV.

Eventually, Andy and I discovered that we were shacking up with other viruses as well.

I believe we could all help anuses stay healthier if we’d bring the subject out of dark nether regions and into the light of day.

Most gay guys are fairly informed about HIV, but far too many know far too little about HPV (the human papillomavirus). Experts tell us that most people have been exposed to HPV, which can sometimes cause genital warts or lead to anorectal cancers.

Andy tested HIV positive around two dozen years ago after moving to a big city where he thought his dreams would come true. As it turns out HPV has been inside me for at least that long. No one used the term HPV back then though – instead they talked about anal warts. Andy and I didn’t have a clue.

It was summertime and the Pet Shop Boys’ second big hit “Opportunity” was Andy’s theme song. It was playing at the club when he went out the night before leaving town. Andy was really pumped about his new job working for two up-and-coming gay entrepreneurs. He shook his moneymaker (and me) on the dance floor like there was no tomorrow.

Andy was ecstatic in his new life - for a while. He loved his job, the city was really happening, and he met a hot new beau within a few days of arriving.

The guy was a fish packer (seriously!) and built like a brick shithouse.

Andy worshipped Patrick’s Soloflex body and Patrick really loved “poking” me, as he called it. Andy loved that too, but he had to say no as often as he said yes just to keep from wearing me out.

Patrick didn’t like using condoms. At all. Andy decided “what the hell,” thinking “one more lover won’t make a difference.” Patrick didn’t move in but he slept over nearly every night. Andy almost always woke him up with a back rub the next morning before they both had to go to work. They didn’t talk or think in terms of a relationship or romance, but Patrick was Andy’s only lover. They smoked buds and went to the club every weekend, and had lots of good times.

When the leaves turned it was time for Andy’s third Hepatitis B vaccination. The manager at work referred him to a young gay doctor. Without that stroke of luck, I honestly don’t think I’d have lived to tell this tale. Andy figured the doc would give him the injection and that would be that. Instead Dr. Johnson explained that Andy’s blood should first be tested to check the effect of the two previous shots.

A week later, the doctor called to explain that a third injection would be useless because Andy already had chronic hepatitis B. His previous test had been done “in the window” before antibodies could be detected. Andy was confused but bravely shared this news with Patrick and paid for his hepatitis test. He didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of the end of the relationship.

The sparkle of the city began to dim as Andy saw past its veneer. He sensed a strange dark edge to life there, one he couldn’t quite put his finger on. The shop owners had a reputation for putting the make on their employees and while he stood up for himself, they were generally jerks. The depressed economy painted Andy into a corner. Lots of other guys his age were unemployed and couch hopping and the gay subculture seemed to revolve around crystal meth. Andy didn’t care for it but he knew Patrick and a lot of other guys did.

At his next visit, Dr. Johnson checked Andy (and me) out more thoroughly. He noticed some swollen glands on the back of Andy’s neck and a cluster of warts on me. Both were indications that something might be up with Andy’s immune system.

He hadn’t even known I could get warts, much less that they were caused by a virus that could stick around for decades.

The doctor told Andy the swollen glands were a sign of infection. “It could be a number of things, including the virus that causes AIDS,” he said. Because he had no treatment to offer and because discrimination was nearly certain, Dr. J. didn’t recommend getting a test. Instead he advised Andy to act as if he (and everyone else) was infectious - just in case. His colleague examined me carefully and recommended outpatient surgery to remove the warts.

A week before the scheduled procedure, Andy finally got fed up and told his bosses what they could do with their job. Unfortunately that meant he no longer had insurance and my surgery had to be postponed. Andy tried to find another job, but it seemed only hometown boys were being hired. After a lonely month living on credit cards and wishful thinking, we high-tailed it out of there.

Along the route home Andy stopped to visit friends and have some laughs. On a side trip into the Petrified Forest, his footsteps crunched through a brittle, sparkling layer of snow. He squinted at the low winter sun and watched a long train heading off into the horizon. While deeply inhaling the cold fresh air, a powerful premonition came over Andy – that he was infected and that his life was going to change in a very big way. Somehow the feeling wasn’t centered on illness or death.

“I’m going to help people,” he kept thinking. “Somehow I’m going to help.”

(to be continued, read part 3 next tuesday, february 22)

As told to Mark Hubbard

Read Part 1 of Andrew's Anus.


  1. I am going to share the following infoin every installment of this series.

    If you are in Chicago and need an anal HPV expert who knows her stuff and has the BEST bedside manner, check out Dr.Julia Dyer


    Keep those nethers healthy boys! And girls too :)

  2. I am loving Mark's HPV narrative. Finding it riveting, if you'll pardon a small pun. :)

    These days I'm working on hep B/C and there's a small misunderstanding in the narrative that could lead some people to getting worried.

    Hep B testing is incredibly confusing but it's basically the opposite of HIV -- if you have anti-HBs (surface antibody), that means you're *immune* to Hep B, either due to vaccination (surface antibody alone) or past "cleared" infection (surface & core antibodies).

    In Andy's story, testing for vaccination wouldn't diagnose Hep B. For that, the doc would need to have ordered a test for HBsAg (antigen, a bit like a viral load test, it looks for the virus directly.)

    There are people walking around who are surface antibody-positive (ie. immune) but think that means they have hep B and worry a lot about it.

    Daniel Reeders


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